The Second Amendment: Let's Get "Armed" for Discussion


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Although the language of the Second Amendment is brief, controversy continues to exist concerning it's precise meaning and the founders' intent. The amendment reads, in it's entirety, as follows:

     "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

What do these words mean? Let's explore.

First, what is a "Militia"?  Click here.
Next, what constitutes "Arms"?  Click here.
And how about "infringed"?  Click here.

Is the term "Arms" limited to guns or firearms?
Do you think "infringed" relates to any interference or regulation?
Does the need for a "Militia" include the right to own firearms for self defense generally?

Let's take a look at what types of firearms were available at the time the Second amendment was proposed and adopted.  Click here.

Do you think that the founders meant to limit Second Amendment rights to these arms?
Or did they anticipate that more advanced weapons would be developed, such as these?  Click here.


Now let's take a look at the background and historical context of the amendment.  Click here.

Is the right to bear arms a purely American tradition?
Do you think that the founders anticipated maintaining standing armies during times of peace?

Ownership of firearms has not gone without some regulation over the years. Take a look at these sites:
-gun control timeline 1791-1999
-federal assault weapons ban
-owning a machine gun

What types of circumstances have prompted gun control legislation?
Are any citizens forbidden to own any firearms?

Surprisingly, there have been very few Supreme Court cases interpreting the Second Amendment. There have, however, been two recent cases involving laws in Washington D.C. and Chicago, Illinois banning ownership of hand guns.  Let's take a look.
-Washington D.C. case summary
-Chicago case summary

Does the Court appear to be unified or divided on the issue?
What were the arguments in favor of the handgun bans?
What were the arguments against the bans?

Finally, let's take a look at some statistics from around the world related to gun ownership and gun violence. Navigate within this site to gather the data described below for the United States, Canada, England and Wales, Japan, and Australia. Navigate under "Facts by Country" by clicking on the country to be reviewed. When at the relevant country, click on "Gun Numbers" and then "Civilian Guns". Record data for the Rate of civilian firearm possession per 100 people and the corresponding World Ranking for that category. Then click on  "Gun Death and Injury" and record the Rate of Gun Homicide per 100,000 citizens.

Click here for site.

What did you find interesting about these statistics?
Did anything surprise you?
Do you think that there is a relationship between firearm possession and gun homicides?

Your Webquest is now complete. I hope that you found it to be enlightening and thought provoking. Please retain your notes, as I will be collecting and grading them after our class discussion.

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